Pumpkin Beer Taste Test

Pumpkin can be way more than just pie. It can hit the sweet or savory notes. Bread, desserts, vinegar, sauces, soup, pasta, molasses… the list goes on. But you might be surprised to learn that one of pumpkin’s earliest uses was for beer.

Pumpkin beer is on a short list of styles that originated right here in North America. For the earliest European settlers, good beer malt wasn’t an easy find. So they tried everything they could as a substitute, and finally found a winner: pumpkin.

Love it or hate it, pumpkin beer is a growing trend in the craft world today. Just take a look at the sea of orange labels that washes in each autumn! The most common type is a Pumpkin Ale – usually a brown or pale ale, brewed with the star ingredient itself, and often with added “pumpkin spices” (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, etc.). But pumpkin can be used in almost any variety of beer. 

Pumpkin Beer

To show some of its versatility, we’ve taken a variety of pumpkin beers off our local shelves and put them through a taste test.

Grand River Highballer Pumpkin Ale

Grand River Highballer Pumpkin Ale

On the paler side, the taste and aroma of fresh, raw pumpkin runs right through this brew. Jessica’s immediate reaction: “It tastes like the smell when you carve a jack o’lantern.” Although the flavour of the pumpkin itself was clear and fresh, it lacked an accompaniment that could have brought it to the next level.

Overall: 6/10

Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale

Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale

This was not the pumpkin ale we were looking for – but that wasn’t not necessarily a bad thing. The pumpkin taste was very subtle, but it focused on the roasty, savory flavour of the pumpkin, instead of the sweet side. Some extra points for going a slightly different route.

Overall: 7/10

St-Ambroise Citrouille (AKA the Great Pumpkin Ale)

St Ambroise Citrouille

This ale is definitely on the darker side of pumpkin beer, similar to an amber or Irish red. Unsurprisingly, the flavour is pleasantly rich, and reminiscent of your grandmother’s pumpkin pie. It’s got the spices, the subtle sweetness, and the mouthwatering tartness of a proper pumpkin treat. We were glad it came in a 4-pack. Great product!

Overall: 9/10

Mill Street Nightmare on Mill Street

Nightmare on Mill Street

We were missing the gourd in this one: it just wasn’t particularly pumpkin-y at all. Some pumpkin spices lifted it out of the general ale category, but it just didn’t have that oomph for us.

Overall: 5/10

Black Creek Pumpkin Ale

Black Creek Pumpkin Ale

We’ve had it twice, once in a recent bottle and another on draft at the Hamilton Beer Festival in August, and it was a vast difference. In the bottle, it had a slightly burnt taste, like when the edges of your pie get blackened. With all the sweet flavours too, that slightly burnt taste seemed a bit syrupy. On draft at the festival though, we found it flavourful and smooth, with a not-too-heavy pumpkin flavour. We’re averaging out our score, on the off-chance that we got a bad batch. 

Overall: 6/10

Beau’s Weiss O’Lantern

Beau's Weiss O'Lantern

Very light with just a little of that weiss-like cloudiness. Had a very distinctive tart pumpkin flavour, along with a sweeter flavour from the wheat. Unfortunately, neither flavour really complemented the other as much as we’d hoped, so we didn’t love this one. 

Overall: 5/10

Great Lakes Saison Dupump

Saison Dupump

A quality saison with a hint of uncooked pumpkin. The tang of the saison with the fresh, vegetal taste of raw pumpkin worked really well together. Like a blend of summer and fall flavours, appropriate for either season. 

Overall: 8/10

*Pumpkin patch photo from: 
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bake_these_(pumpkins_in_Toronto).jpg 

A Visit to Beau’s Brewery

Beau’s Brewery is just outside the little town of Vankleek Hill, Ontario, which is about an hour from Ottawa and even closer to the Quebec border.

It was one of our further afield brewery visits, so we were excited to have the chance to wander in during our travels. It wasn’t until we saw the place that the significance of Beau’s tractor logo quite dawned on us – this is a country brewery.

THE PLACE

Beau’s brand is totally countrified, and they aren’t shy about it. From the tractor on each bottle of Lug Tread, to the rustic wooden accents in their tasting room/shop, even to the corrugated metal dividers in the washroom, this is a fully themed experience.

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THE TOUR

The tour was free; brief but satisfying. We took a few steps into the brewing area, got a run-down of their process, a look at their beer going out for sale, and some info about their machinery, like the big, shiny “RE-BIER” machine for re-bottling empties. It ended in a session where we could check out the extra ingredients they add to their varied beers – like sweet gale and yarrow for the Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale – most of which are locally sourced.

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THE BEER

Beau’s had a solid selection of 10 beers on tap, with free samples and $5 pints. However, they’re also really good at distributing their beers to the LCBO, so we’d already had most of them, like the Tom Green Beer (a Milk Stout and one of our favourites). We went for the new-to-us brews:

  • Festivale is a decent summer seasonal in the style of a German Altbier.
  • Channel Ocho was a special “back from the vault” Winter Ale, rich and deep with festive flavour notes. We’d have bought some of that if we could!
  • The Beaver River I. P. Eh is,as you may have guessed, an IPA. Josh thought the hoppiness and maltiness were well balanced, though Jessica avoided it because she’s not usually an IPA fan.

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THE EXTRAS

Beau’s has a nice selection of their beers, including the special members-only row we drooled over. And they’ve got a great little gift shop, including a whole bunch of items that match their countrified brand, ranging from the ordinary to the quirky. We decided to take home a Beau’s Mason jar glass and a handful of Ontario Craft Beer buttons.

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Out front, there’s a rustic, wooden, hop bine-covered patio with a bar and a few things on the food menu. And, of course, the trademark tractor is out front! It would be a nice place to spend a few afternoon hours.

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Visit Date: June 21, 2015